You own a small business. You have always done things the same way from day one. You try to do most things yourself. It’s all in your head. You’ve probably asked yourself, “Written business procedures, do I really need any?” What’s wrong with this picture?
Well, for starters, if something happens to you, your business is in big trouble! Perhaps some employees know something about what you do and how you do it, but not to the extent you know your own procedures. Maybe employees can piece together what they think you do. Maybe they can’t. Some of their actions might be correct and others not. Most employees and customers will see a difference in your business and wonder why things have changed. On the bright side, some procedures might actually improve simply because someone else is doing your job.
But let’s not even worry about something happening to you. How efficient is it for a business to operate with only one or very few individuals knowing how to handle certain business functions? Answer: Not very efficient at all!
Every business has certain procedures in place from opening in the morning to closing at night and everything in between. Procedures run the gamut of activities in a business. To operate efficiently, each procedure should be accomplished the same way regardless of who performs the particular function. The question is, “How does a small business get to that point?”
Written procedures are the key to operational efficiency. They do the following five things:
- Standardize each separate business function.
- Allow review of each business function by others for possible improvement.
- Simplify the process of cross-training employees in different functional areas.
- Minimize delay when one employee takes over for another employee.
- Permit management to follow up and review procedures to ensure company compliance.
The process of developing, writing, testing, and improving procedures is a continual cycle. Once written, procedures should be periodically reviewed for possible revision and improvement. Change is a never-ending process in a business; therefore, procedures also need to be changed to improve operational efficiency and safeguard company assets.
So, if an owner says, “Written procedures are a waste of time and not for my company,” the owner is in effect saying, “I’m really not interested in operating as efficiently as I can, nor am I really worried about safeguarding my company’s assets.” That would be a bold statement for any owner to make, and one that no owner would probably consciously make; however, not requiring written procedures is essentially making that very statement.
Do you currently have no written procedures? Don’t worry about preparing all procedures in writing immediately. This can be an impossible and discouraging task.
- Start by preparing written procedures that are most critical to the company’s performance.
- Have the written procedures reviewed by as many employees as possible that work with the particular procedure.
- Compile all written procedures in a binder for easy viewing, and also store them digitally on a computer network.
Written company procedures are not a luxury when time permits. Written company procedures are a necessity for a company’s long-term success!